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Strategies for Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster with ADHD

Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be like riding an emotional rollercoaster — sometimes you're on the highest of highs, other times it feels like you're crashing down faster than a rickety old wooden coaster.

This may be due to something Dr. Russell Barkley calls Emotional Impulsiveness, or often otherwise noted as Emotional Dysregulation.

Dr. Barkley explains, “I argue that this emotional impulsiveness (EI) is an aspect of poor inhibition associated with ADHD that is illustrated by low frustration tolerance, impatience, being quick to anger, aggression, greater emotional excitability, and other negative reactions, all of which are related to the impulsivity dimension of the disorder.”

But no matter how many peaks and valleys lay ahead of us, understanding the symptoms and developing strategies to manage them can help us navigate this ride in stride, as well as better regulate emotions and, consequently, improve relationships with others.

In this blog post, I'll take you through what life with today's biggest distractibility disorder looks like and provide some effective strategies for regulating emotions. With my honest advice and bit of humor too, let's strap in and take a ride to learn more about ADHD & Emotional Regulation!

Recognize Your Triggers

Surviving an emotional rollercoaster with ADHD can be a tough challenge, especially when you don't recognize your triggers. Therefore, one of the first steps in regulating your emotions when you have ADHD is understanding what triggers them.

When we talk about triggers, we’re referring to anything that makes us feel overwhelmed or stressed out - it could be a certain situation or even just a person's tone of voice.

Some common triggers can include:

  • changes to routine

  • stimulants

  • lack or too much sleep

  • conflicts with people in our lives

  • and even hunger.

All of these things signal different reactions in our brain and can have huge impacts on our emotions and physical health. Remember, everyone is different, so it’s important to take some time to think about what sets off your emotions and then come up with strategies for dealing with them.

For example, if you find yourself getting angry when someone raises their voice at you, try taking a few deep breaths before responding. Or if you know being around large crowds overwhelms you, plan ahead and make sure you have an exit strategy in case things get too overwhelming.

While it may seem daunting to recognize our own individual triggers at first, doing so is extremely beneficial for understanding how our bodies interact with the world around us - and getting back on the track of coping better overall.

Take the time to recognize each trigger as it comes up, as doing so will help learn to regulate your emotions while simultaneously creating more resilient patterns for future issues that arise.

Learn Strategies for Self-Regulation

Once you’ve identified your triggers, it’s time to start learning strategies for self-regulation so that you can stay calm and focused when faced with stressful situations or challenging conversations.

One great self-regulation strategy is mindfulness meditation – taking some time each day to focus on your breathing and be present in the moment without judgement or distraction has been proven to help reduce stress levels and improve emotional regulation skills over time.

Other ways to practice self-regulation include journaling about your feelings and thoughts as well as engaging in creative activities like painting or drawing which allow us to express our emotions in non-verbal ways.

Dr. Joel Ning also has some great strategies for overcoming intense emotions:

  • Anticipatory coping. This entails building a mental framework before facing a recurring, stressful situation (like dealing with a child’s tantrums or a difficult coworker). The anticipatory coping strategy may be escaping, planning a different response, or going through with it, but practicing self-care afterward. With a plan, it is much easier to maintain emotional match to situation and reduce overwhelm.

  • Self-talking appraisals. These entail mentally reframing an event so as to diffuse its intensity. Assuming that the stressor means deliberate harm (like a tailgating driver or a clumsy person bumping into someone) is the start of the problem. Rethinking the situation to assume the best or extend the benefit of the doubt eases tensions.

  • Shifting attention is especially helpful for children, who may lack more advanced coping skills. Sometimes, the best way to avoid a stressor (like a web page, a television show, the news, or a specific person) is to direct attention away from it.

  • Humor. Laughing about a situation (like joking about it with a friend or exaggerating its importance) sometimes helps change perspectives and attitudes around the once troubling situation.

  • Rationalize. Although often referred to in a negative light, rationalizing can also be an effective way to cope – also by changing perspectives.

Know When To Reach Out For Help

Finally, it can be a tough ride managing the emotional rollercoaster of ADHD. That’s why it’s important to remember that while there are many strategies that can help us better manage our emotions, sometimes they aren't enough - especially if our symptoms are severe or we're struggling with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety on top of our ADHD diagnosis.

According to NYU Langone Health, "If episodes start happening more frequently and lasting longer, if your child experiences increased distress or has difficulty controlling their help right away.”

In these cases it's important not be afraid to reach out for professional help - talking therapy can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to learning tools that can help us regulate our emotions more effectively in everyday life.

For example, finding an experienced therapiast who understands both the diagnosis of ADHD and its emotional causes may give you access to helpful effective treatment options designed specifically for your needs

Dr. Barkley notes, “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs that target EF deficits, along with mindfulness-based approaches, might help with emotional regulation in adults with ADHD, especially if they are taking ADHD medication.”

At the end of the day everybody deserves mental health support, so make sure to look out for yourself and those around you!


So there you have it, three strategic tips for how to manage emotional dysregulation when you have ADHD. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg and everyone's experience with managing their emotions is unique.

Learning how to better manage your emotions when living with ADHD doesn't have be overwhelming! It starts by identifying what triggers your emotions and then coming up with strategies for dealing with them - from mindfulness meditation to journaling and creative activities as well as seeking professional help when necessary.

If you find that you're struggling to cope with your feelings or day-to-day life in general, please reach out for help. We offer free consultations so that we can get to know you and see how we can be of assistance. Visit our website to schedule a session today or click the button below!


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